Spring is the traditional time for young horses to get started under saddle, or mature horses to get a pre-season tune-up. Spring must be coming soon because my horse training roster is full and the waiting list is growing!
With all the trainers out there, how do you know who is right for you and your horse? Here are some suggestions to make sure your new trainer will make a great addition to your team.
Top 10 Tips to Pick the Perfect Trainer
1. Interview trainers that fit your goals. Jane Cowgirl might have trained the last 5 world-champion reining horses but that won’t help you if your goal is the show jumping arena.
2. Be open-minded. Tip #1 being said, if your show jumper has holes in his basic education or you just purchased an unstarted but incredibly talented jumping prospect from Europe, Jane Cowgirl might be a great fit IF she is well known for phenomenal foundation training she gives every horse.
3. Check credibility. Though the horse training profession is largely unregulated, research the trainer’s professional credentials. Read testimonials from happy customers. Ask for referrals. Find out what her previous clients think about her services.
4. Are the facilities safe? Bear in mind that you are visiting a working farm not a static showplace. Tack may be hanging on hooks along the aisle or arena walls and cross-tie areas may show signs of recent use. Beware if the tack is lying in tangled heaps on the ground waiting to trip passing horses, or the grooming area is fetlock deep in dirt and hair! The overall sense should be neat, functional and orderly.
5. Are the facilities adequate for your goals? If you’re looking for a cutting trainer, expect to see cows. If you want your horse to jump courses, look for jumps!
6. Watch the trainer work a horse. If anything happens that you don’t understand or are uncomfortable with, ask the trainer about it.
7. After the training session, ask yourself three questions. Is the horse calmer and more confident than when he began? Has he learned something new or progressed further along the path? Did the trainer stay calm and levelheaded through any dicey situations? If the answer to any of these is no, ask the trainer to explain or interview another trainer.
8. Does the trainer consider the whole horse? Does she ask that the horse is up to date on vaccines, dental work and hoof care before the horse begins her training program? Do the horses on her farm show evidence of up-to-date health care? Many training issues are the direct result of physical imbalance or pain. A comprehensive training program addresses the whole horse: mind, body and emotions.
9. What value does the trainer offer? Notice I said value offered, not price charged. Jane Cowgirl might charge more than lower-priced competitors but if she produces better results in a shorter time, or produces results that are meaningful to you, you have gotten better value for your money
10. Educate yourself. Your horse is going to school. Do you need to brush up on your own skills in order to keep up with him? Take some lessons, read some good books, audit a clinic with a top trainer in your discipline. Book a session with your trainer at the end of the program to make sure YOU are able to cue your horse’s new skills.
11. The responsibility is ultimately yours. You are your horse’s spokesperson. He depends on you for everything. If at any point you feel like he is being mistreated or abused, remove him from the situation, no matter how many prizes hang on the trainer’s wall.
Do you have any nuggets you’d like to add? What have been your experiences finding a horse trainer?
And by the way, if your horse needs training (and is a good fit for our program), we’ll see what we can do to fit him in!